We moved to Cyprus when our children were nearly 2 years old and 4 months old. I basically learned to cook while living there; and because I was surrounded by it, most of my cooking techniques center around Mediterranean-style cooking. My goal is to teach you lovely goddesses how to make simple, healthy Mediterranean meals.
As our kids got older and joined us at the table, I would give them tomatoes and cucumbers for breakfast, salads with a homemade vinaigrette for lunch, and asparagus in their omelettes for dinner Yes, eggs are more of a lunch or dinner meal in many countries throughout the Mediterranean. Where do you think Sylvester Stallone learned it all those years ago? From his Italian roots!
I remember one afternoon the first year after we moved. I was making a chicken and vegetable soup for the children. When they were babies, I used to blend the soup so that my children would eat it without chewing. I continued this habit when they were over 2 and 3 years old. My mother in law saw me one afternoon and was shocked. She explained, “children must see their vegetables.” Stunned by this new-found wisdom, I set about changing my recipes from hiding to making it front and center.
It wasn’t until we moved back to the States years later, my children now aged 9 and 8 years old, that I heard of this weird philosophy to “hide the vegetables” well into their childhood. Sneak in half the required-amount of potatoes for cauliflower while making mashed potatoes! (Great tip, by the way, but why sneak it in? Tell the kids it’s mashed cauliflower and potatoes. Or all cauliflower, if you so wish. It will help them understand why they are so gassy later on in the night.) I even think there’s a whole cookbook out there dedicated to various ways to deceive your kids into eating healthy.
Goddesses: you should never hide your vegetables! Make them the staple of your everyday meals and your kids will grow accustomed to seeing them on their plates.
One of my favorite go-to meals is spinach pie. Known by several names, including spanokopita, ispanakli borek, boreka, goulash, and more, this Mediterranean pie is a meal all-in-one. It’s easy to make; an easy choice when having company (they think you’ve slaved over it). And the best part? You use an entire bag or full pound of fresh spinach. Yes, your kids will see green leafy spinach mixed in the layers of phyllo and feta, but they won’t taste it. Promise.
- 1 package of phyllo dough (found in your grocer’s frozen foods section near the waffles). Ask for help if you can’t find them.
- 1 bag of washed baby spinach or 1 bunch of spinach, washed thoroughly and chopped
- 8-oz package of crumbled feta cheese
- 1/2 carton of plain Greek yogurt
- 4 Tablespoons Canola or vegetable oil
- 1 egg
- Preheat oven to 350 F (180 C)
- In a bowl, combine the plain, Greek yogurt and Canola oil. Stir well until they are mixed completely. If needed, add some water to lighten the mixture. It should be liquidy, not stiff or clumpy. Add salt to taste. This will be your “glue” to hold the sheets of phyllo and feta/spinach together.
Goddess trick: many spinach pie recipes call for the use of butter or oil, adding unnecessary calories and fat to your pie. A trick I learned in Cyprus is to use yogurt (plain), add just a bit of oil, mixed in with some water to liquefy the mixture, as your “glue”. Instead of fat and added calories, you are adding calcium and probiotics for your health! Plus yogurt gives an overall richer, thicker taste to the pie.
- Take a sheet pan (or casserole dish) and either line with wax paper and spray or coat the bottom with more oil to prevent sticking
- Carefully remove the phyllo dough from its wrapper. The Phyllo strips are paper thin and tear easily. It’s fine if they tear; once cooked, no one will be able to notice.
- Place several strips of phyllo on the cookie sheet or casserole dish
- Spoon a layer of your glue (yogurt/oil/salt) onto the phyllo and spread carefully across
- Add a large handful of spinach and make certain the phyllo is evenly covered
- Sprinkle a small handful of feta cheese across the phyllo and spinach. This is your first (bottom) layer
- Place several more strips of phyllo across and begin the second layer. Continue until all your phyllo and spinach are finished.
- Your top layer should by plain phyllo
- In a small bowl, beat the egg and add a bit of oil. If there is any more yogurt mixture left, combine with the egg
- Over the top phyllo dough, add the egg/oil mixture and spread. This will cause your spinach pie to have a golden top.
- Place in the middle rack of your oven and cook 20 – 25 minutes. Note: this pie will rise while cooking. Remove any racks above it
Serve with salad and freshly squeezed orange juice for the ultimate in a light, tasty meal packed with vitamins and tastes great. Side benefit: spinach pie tastes great the next day for lunch!
Discover your inner Aphrodite . . .